If you ever find yourself struggling to explain to a foreign friend why the U.S. Congress is so universally reviled, look no further than this bit of political cowardice.
In an explosive report by The Hill’s Alexander Bolton, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office freely and openly admitted that his party’s legislative goal for the next 11 months is to do absolutely nothing.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), seeking to protect his majority in a tough cycle for Republicans, is leaning toward holding back several measures that have bipartisan support but are divisive in his conference.
Some of these “divisive” bills that Republicans want to shove under the rug until they win their re-elections? A crucial justice reform bill. A long sought after authorization bill to combat ISIS (Remember when Republicans said they were serious about fighting terrorism? Ha!). A minimum wage increase? Any action on immigration? Nothing. They’ll show up to their office to collect their paychecks, hold a few fundraisers, but don’t expect them to do their jobs. Not this year.
Astoundingly, McConnell’s “Do Nothing” strategy is being praised by fellow Republicans. Here’s The Hill again:
“McConnell is smart to wait on issues that divide us until such time as we can achieve a consensus,” said a senior Republican aide. “There’s no question that some members want to turn to some things sooner than others. But McConnell’s duty is to do what’s best for the entire conference. Seems what’s best for the conference is to focus on the things that unite us.”
Yeah, sitting on his hands until they go numb, what a hero.
But if cowardice permeates every corner of the Republican Party, it’s not without reason. For years Republican politicians have been held hostage by a radical fringe of their base that says any bipartisan cooperation means you aren’t a “true” conservative. Just passing a bill to give more support to veterans is considered a “betrayal” to the party if it means working with Democrats. You accomplish exclusively conservative goals or you don’t accomplish anything at all.
McConnell, with all the backbone of a snail, isn’t taking any chances. He’ll wait out the election and hope that voters focus on how his party never once compromised with “the enemy,” and not, say, on the fact that they hadn’t done their jobs for 12 months.
How does he plan to cover his tracks? It’s shameless – but kind of clever. McConnell plans to intentionally slow down and string out the dozen annual appropriations bills. Those can be addressed individually and, if time is properly squandered, can go on pretty much indefinitely. By the end of the year, with 12 appropriations bills in hand, he can brag about having done something. Just not very much.
When we think about how the election cycle brings out the worst in politicians, we typically picture the attack ads, the rat race, the pettiness. There’s another side: The craven attempt to cling onto jobs by a group of people who demonstrably do not deserve them. It means in this crucial year, when the United States faces a ton of major challenges, Americans will be treated to nothing – and all because a few politicians are worried what their most toxic supporters would think if they actually bothered show up to work.
Feature image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr